Politics, sports intersect in Arizona

There’s a fascinating interplay of sports and politics in Arizona over a controversial piece of immigration legislation that supporters say is necessary to stem the costs of rampant illegal immigration in the state and opponents say opens the door to racial and ethnic profiling.

I don’t want to get into the issue itself. We have political blogs and message boards on which that can be debated.

But the role sports — especially major league sports — are beginning to play is fascinating, and you wonder if it isn’t a sign of things to come.

Arizona, of course, is no stranger to sports-related political controversy. The University of Louisville, for example, was able to take part in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe because a number of schools refused to participate in protest after the state’s voters rejected a Martin Luther King Holiday. Arizona lost the 1993 Super Bowl as a result of that.

Now, a New York congressman is helping give impetus to an effort to move the 2011 Major League All-Star game out of Phoneix, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are experiencing protests on the road.

The NBA’s Phoenix Suns, as is their Cinco de Mayo custom, wore jerseys that bore the name, “Los Suns,” but the message had political overtones on Wednesday, with team officials, coach and players speaking out against the new Arizona law.

Here’s the most amazing aspect of all this to me. Arizona governor Jan Brewer wrote a special op-ed addressing all this — which is not unusual. What is unusual is that it was submitted to ESPN.com.

I don’t know how sports fans feel about worlds colliding like this. It has been my view that politics have taken on a more sporting nature in this country for some time.

I can’t help but feel that we’re going to see the two begin to mix more and more often as they begin to have more and more in common (not the least of which is media coverage, which is tending to cover politics increasingly like sports). I wrote about this subject recently on a personal blog for anyone who cares to see more on the subject in an non-sports discussion. You can click here for that.

I just wonder how sports fans feel about this. I know that, from the standpoint of sports pages, they really don’t want to see a whole lot of politics. Sports, in my experience, is a place people turn to escape all that. In any game in Rupp Arena or Freedom Hall, you see people from the far left and far right joining behind their team colors. They don’t want to have to worry about what the guy in the next row believes.

At any rate, in my experience when sports and politics become mingled its sports that is the loser. I’m not talking about sports issues that are necessarily political issues — the building of new arenas, congressional antitrust or substance abuse oversight, etc. I’m talking about the use of sports teams or events for partisan purposes.

What do you think?


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